Thursday, January 10, 2013

92 Reasons I Won't Recommend This Book

Is this song cheesy or comforting to the heart? I love it, but the internet has said that it sounds like a song from the credits of a third-rate 80s movie.

I think I've written 10,000 words on KUFC this week. Not shabby. I would have written more if I could stop fiddling with the last two scenes that I typed up (dammit). I keep remembering things like "if she was eating grapes she'd have to spit out the seeds, no seedless grapes in 1940" and "wait, I have to point out that there were grapes on the coffee table in the first place" and "she forgot to put her coat back on before she went outside" and such. It's stupid little stuff, consistencies and anachronisms, but it's the kind of stuff I'm afraid I'll forget entirely if I don't put it in (which simultaneously feels too irrelevant to take notes about).

Also, the book is becoming much queerer than I intended it to be. My MC is bisexual, which was part of the plan all along, but it's turning out that there are more homosexual scenes/couples in the book than hetero ones. I think this is hunky-dory, but since this just happened, I'm slightly worried that I'll scare off publishers the same way Soderbergh scared off distributors. (Best comment I heard on that nonsense: "Now I'm just gay is this thing?") Ah well. Now is not the time to worry about that. And anyway genre fiction needs more healthy queerness and fewer spider-queens with eight boobs.

Speaking of scary monsters, I am reading this book:

And I think it will be the last advice book about the publishing industry that I read, unless I am recommended one after a serious, thoughtful conversation. I've read ten or so, all told, and a plethora of publishing advice on the internet. They always have the same effect. They make me insecure and arrogant in equal measures (i.e. "oh God, I'm not doing that, I'm not thinking about that, I'm a horrible writer, I'm dooooomed" intertwined with "I totally knew that, I'm brilliant, I'm way better than the herd, I'm gonna be a millionaire"), sometimes in the course of a single sentence. They get me spun up and competitive about who could be in the slush pile with me, and force me to obsess over why the process has to be so fraught and lottery-like. They make me angry because they contradict each other and themselves, sometimes in two neighboring paragraphs, as this one did. And because they codify everything about the process of publishing into secret handshakes that differ from book to book, indicating that the codification is thoroughly variable and meaningless.

To sum up: they keep me from doing good work. They take my focus off the book and onto myself and my ego, whether inflated or punctured. They advise less than they obfuscate. So I'm finished. Me and my perfectionism would rather do everything the exactly-right way to increase my chances of acceptance, but if I've learned anything at all from these fussy, confounding books, it's that the only part of the process that doesn't vary from house to house and agent to agent is do good work. (And tell the truth, but I've got that one down.) So fuck it. I'm just gonna do my best, and make the book part of that best, rather than merely my forward foot.

I note that this book, 78 Reasons etc., is apparently out of print. I'm not surprised, because the author's advice on self-publishing is no longer correct in the slightest and he doesn't mention e-books once. (It's from 2005.) However, its advice is otherwise no different than most of the other books I've read about writing and publishing. It's no outlier on the bad end. It's just as irritating and distracting as all the rest.

FWIW, I liked Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - it supplied practical, applicable advice to someone who abhors revision - and I liked The Fire in Fiction, although I suspect the latter was good because Maass is just a good writer. But, you know, those are craft books, not publishing books. Both invoked the carrot of "you want to be published, don't you?", but neither was specifically about how to get into print.

Okay. Rant over.

I'm trying very hard to do less Facebook lately, and it is a serious challenge. It's difficult on a minute-by-minute basis. And it makes me feel amazingly isolated. But I can also feel my life cracking open to let other things in: old habits, new uses for time. So...yay?


Chad said...

Then I'll comment here instead of FB, even though my own resolution has been less blog. :)

To answer your first question, yes. That song basically is a Peter Cetera Chicago song. It needs to be in a montage about a summer romance between a 17 year old boy and a 16 year old girl. One of them is a child of privilege whose family is on vacation there; the other is a hardscrabble youth trying to make a way through life. You pick which is which.

As for the publishing - all of it - when I was reading about the music industry, there was a line that stuck out with me that I think I've shared with you before, but just in case - "Nobody will ever give you permission to create what's in your head. If that's what you're waiting for, you'll never get it. Give yourself permission, and start moving forward with it."

So follow that instinct. Take your focus off the end of the process and do your best work on the thing in front of you. As you once told me, use your real voice, don't Auto-Tune it to make it sound like something else. Be You. Boom.

Katharine Coldiron said...

Oh shut up with your Peter Cetera. This song makes me happy.

The permission is only part of it, and something that 2012 definitely helped me to grasp. These industry books sell themselves by giving the impression that hey, we're all just folks here, publishing isn't really Skull & Bones. But then they go on to give you all the tips you need to get through the complex initiation rites. It's confusing and intimidating.

The real voice is definitely going in the book. That's part of why I'm not taking any steps at all to tone down the queerness. The kid stays in the picture. But this "will I be able to publish? maybe this book can tell me the answer like an 8-ball" is one of the many seemingly-helpful-but-really-destructive habits that I am having to shed, one at a time, to be able to concentrate.

Denise said...

Hey, we're children of the 80s. We get a pass...

Denise said...

BTW, good luck with the Facebook rehab. I sometimes get that way when I'm on vaca. I compulsively check every 30 seconds and refresh to look for new comments, etc. When I feel that happening I have to just close it. It prevents me from doing other things, seriously, like right now I've been putting off doing a load of laundry for at least an hour... <3

Katharine Coldiron said...

I tend to leave it open all day in a second browser window and use it to take frequent short breaks. But "compulsive" is exactly the right word for what it's become for me, and I am trying to keep it closed for longer and longer periods.

twinklysparkles said...

Thanks for this post, Katharine. I have never read a book on the publishing industry, but I have read articles and picked up a magazine or two here and there.

I am not a fast reader nor a "good" reader. You seem able to devour books so quickly, but for me, it takes me a while. I try to be judicious.

I think I just used you. Hope you don't mind!


Katharine Coldiron said...

It ain't too bad the way you're usin' me, 'cuz I sho' am usin' you to do the things you do.